Toronto illustrator Matthew Daley is a mathematician when it comes to creating comics. “I’m always adding and subtracting something,” he says, sitting in his favourite coffee shop on a sunny September afternoon. “I spend a lot of time carrying ideas over and removing them.”
Although Daley has freelanced most his life, he recently set out to self-publish more personal projects as part of the comic duo Plierpants. Alongside writer Cory McCallum, the pair recently launched a new comic book, Errol Dynamic, and are currently working on Chilly Tales, a Canadian comic anthology, set to launch in the fall. Toronto Standard decided to get to know Matthew Daley and discovered a few interesting things about him.
His comics are warped nursery rhymes.
“There’s a funny darkness to all of our characters,” the illustrator says, referencing his work in comic strips like Mr. Monitor and the comic book Errol Dynamic. “[Cory] had this idea for a dark, gory children’s story,” he remembers when thinking back to their first collaboration on a comic strip called Salamander Dunderhead. “It evolved into warped nursery rhymes for adults.”
He once drew a comic that was also a palindrome.
“It’s based on a composition by Bach,” he says. McCallum, a musician, thought to apply the composer’s crab canon technique, in which two musical lines are the same played backward or forward, to a comic. Daley ran with the idea in his illustration. “We ended up with a palindromic comic,” he says. “It was a weird experiment; we had two very different stories even though they were mirror images.”
His most recent comic book, Errol Dynamic, is about an anti-hero with a drinking habit…
Errol, the title character of the 24-page comic written by McCallum and illustrated by Daley, is a divorced space traveler with rage issues. “He’s kind of washed up. He’s sort of drifting aimlessly through space, drunk and in a stupor.” Daley feels the character pays homage to older comics that weren’t afraid to cover unpleasant topics, like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. “Errol’s got this ButlerBot who does everything for him,” he says. “But it’s no bromance—the ButlerBot is slightly manipulative in everything he does. And Errol is not a very good person.”
…and it looks more like a 1950s ad than a superhero comic.
When asked why his work doesn’t look like the typical comic, Daley references 1950s ad design as an inspiration for his work. “I’m not into overtly bright colours [as in superhero comics],” the bearded artist admits. “It’s just not for me. I have always felt more comfortable with muted colours.”
Devo likes his work.
“My wife and I are huge Devo fans,” Daley says. When they saw Devo was coming to play two concerts in Toronto back in 2009, Daley jumped at the chance to design a poster for them. “I put myself out there. I said ‘I’m a big fan, I’d love to do some stuff for you.’” Five days later, Devo’s management contacted him to say that the band liked his work and wanted him to design two posters for their shows.
He comic jams.
“I’ve been going to the Toronto Comic Jam for 20 years,” Daley says, explaining that it’s “…a mix of amateurs and professionals—about 30-50 people usually—jammed in the back room of The Cameron House.” The exercise, in which sheets of paper are passed around the table for everyone to contribute to a comic, is an excuse to get together, he says. “It keeps our chops up.” Daley has come to enjoy jamming so much that he has created his own small jam circle. Das Hobak, as they call themselves, are currently working on their own comic book, born out of several of their jam sessions.
Errol Dynamic is available for purchase online through the PlierPants website or in store at The Beguiling (601 Markham Street), Silver Snail (329 Yonge Street), and The Comic Book Lounge (587A College Street).
Lauren Pincente is a contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter.